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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Tropical Storm Jose is expected to be absorbed by Hurricane Franklin

By Judson Jones

As the remnants of Idalia battered the coast of North Carolina, and while Hurricane Franklin churned far off in the Atlantic, Tropical Storm Jose formed early Thursday, becoming the latest named storm of the 2023 Atlantic hurricane season.

As of 11 a.m. Thursday, Jose had maximum sustained winds of about 40 mph, just enough to qualify as a named storm, and was about 770 miles east of Bermuda.

The storm is not likely to grow much stronger.

Forecasters expect that it will be absorbed by Hurricane Franklin by Friday.

Wait, one storm can absorb another?

It can! Here’s how that works.

Jose is weak compared to Franklin, which was the Atlantic’s first major hurricane of the year and stayed at that level for days. Franklin is beginning to weaken and will soon transition into a more typical storm system with warm fronts and cold fronts, instead of a solid warm cored tropical cyclone.

By the weekend, after doing a little dance called the Fujiwhara effect, Jose will be absorbed by Franklin. Think of it less like Pac-Man eating a ghost and more like a sponge absorbing water.

The Fujiwhara effect happens when two storms orbit around a shared center point. The effect was named for a Japanese meteorologist, Sakuhei Fujiwhara, who first described the interaction between whirling masses of fluid or air in 1921.

The effect is much more common with cyclones in the west Pacific but does happen in the Atlantic. Sometimes, if the storms are of equal strength, they can spin around each other and then release, going their separate ways. Sometimes they will merge and create a stronger storm.

But in this case, where there is a more significant storm and a weaker storm, Franklin will just be Jose’s demise.

Jose is one of three active storms in the Atlantic.

In addition to Jose and Franklin, another storm, Idalia, battered small towns along the Big Bend region of Florida’s Gulf Coast after making landfall as a Category 3 hurricane Wednesday morning. It had become a tropical storm and was moving east off the coast of North Carolina on Thursday.

We’re in the middle of the hurricane season.

The Atlantic hurricane season started on June 1 and runs through Nov. 30.

In late May, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predicted that there would be 12 to 17 named storms this year, a “near-normal” amount. On Aug. 10, NOAA officials revised their estimate upward, to 14 to 21 storms.

There were 14 named storms last year, after two extremely busy Atlantic hurricane seasons in which forecasters ran out of names and had to resort to backup lists. (A record 30 named storms took place in 2020.)

This year features an El Niño pattern, which arrived in June. The intermittent climate phenomenon can have wide-ranging effects on weather around the world, and it typically impedes the number of Atlantic hurricanes.

In the Atlantic, El Niño increases the amount of wind shear, or the change in wind speed and direction from the ocean or land surface into the atmosphere. Hurricanes need a calm environment to form, and the instability caused by increased wind shear makes those conditions less likely. (El Niño has the opposite effect in the Pacific, reducing the amount of wind shear.)

At the same time, this year’s heightened sea surface temperatures pose a number of threats, including the ability to supercharge storms.

That unusual confluence of factors has made solid storm predictions more difficult.

“Stuff just doesn’t feel right,” said Phil Klotzbach, a hurricane researcher at Colorado State University, after NOAA released its updated forecast in August. “There’s just a lot of kind of screwy things that we haven’t seen before.”

There is solid consensus among scientists that hurricanes are becoming more powerful because of climate change. Although there might not be more named storms overall, the likelihood of major hurricanes is increasing.

Climate change is also affecting the amount of rain that storms can produce. In a warming world, the air can hold more moisture, which means a named storm can hold and produce more rainfall, like Hurricane Harvey did in Texas in 2017, when some areas received more than 40 inches of rain in less than 48 hours.

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